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Hungary to boost border protection after PM Orban, Erdogan discuss migration

BUDAPEST, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Hungary would strengthen the protection of the southern border after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan informed him in that Turkey could no longer hold back the flow of migrants.

"During a phone call earlier today on migration and the current war situation in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan informed PM Orban that there is enormous pressure on Turkey and that they can no longer hold back the flow of migrants," the government's press office said in a statement late on Friday.

Orban convened a meeting of his security cabinet which decided that "Hungary must strengthen the protection of its borders and pay special attention to developments on the Balkan migration route."

Refugees in Turkey headed towards European frontiers on Friday after an official said the borders had been thrown open, a response to the escalating war in Syria where 33 Turkish soldiers were killed by Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

The EU said that Ankara had made no formal announcement of any change in policy at the border.

One of the most vociferous opponents of Muslim immigration into Europe, Orban won a third term in power in 2018. During the peak of the migration crisis in 2015 he had effectively sealed Hungary's southern border with a fence. Hungary was a transit route for hundreds of thousands of migrants heading through the Balkans to western Europe.

Turkey's neighbours Greece and Bulgaria, both European Union member states, vowed not to admit the migrants and reinforced their borders following Ankara's threat to reopen the frontier.

It was closed under an accord between Turkey and the European Union that halted the 2015-16 migration crisis when more than a million people crossed into Europe by foot. (Reporting by Krisztina Than, editing by Louise Heavens)